By Chaitanya Padukone
“Hi, my name is Wadhwa– Manish Wadhwa,” he introduces himself in his bass voice, in James Bond style, and then gives me a warm hand-shake. Although Manish plays the sadistic, ruthless, vindictive villain Pakistani character of Maj. Gen. Hamid Iqbal in Anil Sharma-directed mega-hit blockbuster (350 crores plus ) movie Gadar 2, his menacing swag ( puffing away at a cigar) and his deadly dialogues have also both infuriated and fascinated the theatre audiences. Enthuses modest, chilled-out versatile Manish, “Evidently, audiences love to hate me, in several Pan-India theatres, I am told there are loud vocal nasty abuses-jibes hurled at me, when I am at my wicked villainy acts, as the enemy army chief in ‘Gadar2’. Even my own wife Priyanka reacted that she was so delighted when my sinister screen character is shot dead. But I take all these negative vibes and jibes in my pride stride as a genuine Award for my compelling negative performance.”
“There are numerous senior cine-goers who are even comparing my combat conflict with Sunny Deol with that of his highly revered actor-father Dharmendra-paaji’s physical clash with Gabbar Singh (iconic actor Amjad Khan-sahab) in ‘Sholay’ (1975). All this is so humbling and morale-boosting. All those gaaliyan (abuses)are indirectly like taaliyan (applause) for my performance,” laughs brilliant, seasoned stage actor Wadhwa, who in the past has acted as ‘Jaya Bachchan’s ‘son’ in numerous ‘live’ shows of popular drama plays ‘Dr. Mukta’ and ‘Maa Retire Hoti Hai’, which were performed in various foreign countries and was seen recently in SRK’s superhit Pathaan, yet again as a Pakistani senior army officer.
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“Having played ‘Chanakya’ and ‘Kans’ screen characters in the past, my nearly-bald pate look enhances my screen charisma aura. Although I don’t drink or smoke in real-life my character had to smoke a cigar in ‘Gadar2’ which I guess I pulled off and my fans are loving it. Am also being appreciated for that scene where I am holding the cigar and the gun in my same hand and making the terrified heroine Muskaan (Simrat Kaur) sign on a false allegation document. Acting is my ardent passion–my nashaa–which gives me a high, and the best part is, I get paid for it. Both ‘Gadar2’ director showman Anil Sharma and macho superstar hero Sunny Deol (Tara Singh) and young hero Utkarsh Sharma have all highly praised my diabolic performance.”
“But I have yet to personally meet Dharmendra-paaji to get his blessings. Basically, I am a ‘director’s actor’, but major credit goes to the ‘one-man-army’ off-screen team-captain Anil Sharma-sir who gave also me creative scope to improvise,” discloses Manish whose top favorite villainish screen-icons include legendary Amrish Puri who played the negative civilian character (Ashraf Ali) in Gadar (2001). Incidentally, five-times Best Actor award-winning at the Mumbai University level inter-collegiate stage performances, Wadhwa is a very good singer and an adroit cricketer-left-handed bowler, as well.
Since his sinister screen character is shown ‘shot dead’, would he be missing out on ‘Gadar 3’. After a hearty chuckle, Manish responds, “Although critically injured by bullets, my eyes are shown open. Am sure creative genius writer Shaktimaan-jee and super-hit director Anil Sharma-Sir will ‘revive’ me in some ‘major’ way in the primary cast of ‘Gadar 3’,” signs off optimistic Manish who has also acted in a negative-shades character in Subhash Ghai’s 2001 movie ‘Rahul’ directed by Prakash Jha. Coincidentally, the same year when ‘prequel’ Gadar 2001) was also released.
(The writer Chaitanya Padukone is an award-winning eminent senior entertainment journalist-author)